14 April 2003
Transcript: Pentagon Daily Briefing, April 14
(Clarke, McChrystal brief on Iraq) (4810)
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke and
Major General Stanley A. McChrystal, vice director for Operations,
J-3, Joint Staff, briefed the media April 14 at the Pentagon.
Following is a transcript of the briefing:
United States Department of Defense
Presenter: Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for public
Monday, April 14, 2003 -- 1:30 p.m. EDT
(Also participating was Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, vice director
for operations, J-3, Joint Staff.)
CLARKE: Good afternoon, everyone. We continue to make progress on the
war in Iraq. Coalition forces are rooting out remnants of the Iraqi
regime, including in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown. The regime is
at its end, and its leaders are either dead, surrendered, or on the
But progress did not come without great sacrifices. At the briefing on
April 7, Secretary Rumsfeld showed a list of those who have died in
Operation Iraqi Freedom. Unfortunately, since then we have had to add
more names to the list.
(To staff) Terry?
(Pause while list of names of U.S. casualties is shown.)
War is also hazardous for journalists, as we know. At great personal
risk, many of them have reported the conflict first-hand. We salute
these professionals and offer our condolences to their families.
(Pause while list of names of journalist casualties is shown.)
Thank you, Terry.
On the brighter side, we were thrilled yesterday to see the return of
seven former prisoners of war. While we celebrate their return, we are
still concerned about the Americans still unaccounted for, and we will
keep searching for them until we find them.
As we head into the fourth week of this conflict, I'd like to remind
you of the eight objectives that Secretary Rumsfeld laid out at the
onset of the war.
First, end the regime of Saddam Hussein. Baghdad is largely free of
its influence, and so is most of the entire country.
Second, capture or drive out terrorists sheltered in Iraq. With the
end of the Saddam Hussein regime, terrorists have lost their chief
sponsor and ally in Iraq.
Third, collect intelligence on terrorist networks. As Iraqis come
forward and documents are found, we are gathering more evidence.
Fourth, collect intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, the
systems and the facilities associated with them. We've begun the long
process of exploring sites, sifting through thousands of documents,
and encouraging Iraqis to come forward with information. This will
Fifth, destroy the weapons of mass destruction. We will make sure they
never threaten the region or the world again.
Sixth, secure Iraq's oil fields and natural resources for the Iraqi
people. We have now secured both the northern and the southern oil
Seventh, end the sanctions and immediately deliver humanitarian
relief. With the liberation of Iraq, President Bush and Prime Minister
Blair have asked that the United Nations sanctions be lifted so that
more aid can flow into Iraq. Some places in the country clearly need
help, but we see no overall humanitarian crisis and no mass flight of
refugees. Most Iraqis are staying in their homes or returning to their
homes and have enough food to survive for some time. Coalition forces
are working with local authorities and police forces to patrol the
streets, and the looting is tapering off.
In addition, the World Food Program/United Nations combined are
delivering over 1 million tons of food. This is enough to feed the
entire population of Iraq for several months. A relief ship from the
United Arab Emirates is on the way to help the Iraqi people. It is
carrying 700 tons of boxed rations, bottled water, family first aid
kids, four water tankers, an ambulance, two trucks, two cars and 12
The Japanese have pledged $100 million to support humanitarian relief
efforts in the country. And the United Nations international staff is
returning to northern Iraq, displaced persons there are returning
home, and the water service in Najaf is returning to normal. Medical
and other types of aid are also coming from Kuwait, Italy, Qatar and
And the eighth and final goal, to help the Iraqi people transition to
a non-threatening, representative form of self- government that
preserves the territorial integrity of Iraq. We are working with
clerics, tribal leaders and ordinary Iraqis. Many will meet tomorrow,
April 15th, in An Nasiriyah to discuss the future of Iraq and the
Iraqi interim authority. This will be the first of several meetings as
the Iraqi people chart their future free of the oppressive Hussein
MCCHRYSTAL: Thank you, Ms. Clarke.
Operation Iraqi Freedom continues. I'd like to welcome back the seven
former prisoners of war, who are now safe and will soon be on their
way home. I have some footage I don't believe you've seen yet on their
return. (Video shown.)
On a sad note, I'd like to express my condolences to all the families
who have lost loved ones in combat. As we return Iraq to its people,
there's been remarkable progress, but we need to remember that true
American heroes gave their lives in this effort.
We in uniform also send our regrets to those journalists who lost
their lives covering this effort to disarm Iraq.
Coalition forces are still patrolling Iraq with due diligence. Our air
sorties have decreased over the last few days to about seven (hundred)
to 800 sorties over Iraq per day. We dropped less than 200
precision-guided munitions in the last 24 hours to support our
operations on the ground. In fact, today was the last day that
aircraft from all five carrier battle groups will fly missions into
Iraq. And as the 5th Fleet commander mentioned over the weekend, a
couple of them will be departing the region over the course of the
next few days.
On the ground, coalition forces are continuing patrols throughout
Iraq. And as I've said before, there's still more difficult and even
dangerous work to be done. We're working to create an atmosphere in
which the Iraqi people can begin to govern themselves.
And with that, we'll be happy to take your questions.
Q: Torie, the Bush administration gave as one of the main reasons for
attacking Iraq that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, including
chemical weapons, and that it was a state that supported terrorism and
unveiled why there was a likely chance that these weapons had fallen
into the hands of terrorists. Now, the United States has increasingly
in the past week said that Syria contains -- it has such weapons, and
that Syria's a state that supports terrorism. Why shouldn't the world
take this increasing rhetoric about Syria as an open threat to invade
CLARKE: Two things. I wouldn't call it rhetoric, I would call it
facts. And then, the president, the secretary of Defense, the
secretary of State have all spoken about this. Secretary of Defense
did just a few minutes ago, when he was with the Kuwaiti foreign
minister. And we've got nothing to add.
Q: Well, why -- I mean, why shouldn't the world take this, as much of
the world is, as a threat, perhaps, to invade Syria?
CLARKE: I just don't agree with your assessment that this is rhetoric.
And there's just nothing to add to what the president, and the
secretary of Defense and the secretary of State have said.
Q: Torie and General McChrystal, it seems obvious that there will be
no more major, underline the word "major," battles in this war. And of
the eight mission objectives, most have now been accomplished. When
will this building and when will Tommy Franks advise the commander in
chief to declare victory? Is it far away?
CLARKE: I'll take a stab. I'd say we're making good progress on those
objectives. I'd say we've got a long way to go on many of them. There
are still military operations under way. There are still people doing
very, very dangerous work. And I think different people will define it
differently. At the end of the day, it's about the Iraqi people having
their country back, and the Iraqi people having an environment in
which they can get that country up and running again.
So I think you're going to see us talking for a long time about work
that needs to be done, and we'll let others decide.
Q: With the fall of Tikrit, is the conflict now entering a new phase?
And are you looking at the forces there as having a different role, as
more stabilization than combat?
MCCHRYSTAL: Well, clearly we are moving toward the goal of providing a
safe and secure environment throughout Iraq. The anticipation is that
that would occur in a rolling nature. I -- from the standpoint it
would be at a -- probably at a different point in each part of the
country, based upon conditions there.
So I think that as major combat operations wind down, we'll still
conduct minor combat operations, to include some sharp fights in
areas, and then adjust our operations in each area. I'm not sure it
will be so close that all of a sudden we proclaim we are moving from
one kind of operation to the next.
Q: Is this considered a new phase of operations that you're
undertaking or will undertake?
MCCHRYSTAL: The operation is broken into phases. We're not yet at the
point where General Franks would make the decision to transition
entirely from one phase to the next.
CLARKE: And it may be entirely possible it's different in one part of
the country than another.
CLARKE: Right here.
Q: Yeah. Torie or General, has there been a change in Pentagon policy
in terms of repatriated POWs? In the past, we have seen, when POWs
have been released, that they go sort of into seclusion, if you will,
till they can talk with doctors and really readjust, to get back into
the world, if you will. But we've seen with -- in the case of Jessica
Lynch, who got to speak to her parents, and also yesterday, when there
were actually reporters on the plane after their release, is there a
new policy? And what -- if there is, what is that based on?
CLARKE: I'm not aware of any changes in policy. I know the first and
the primary consideration is their physical and emotional well-being,
and great care and great attention is given to that. And I am not an
expert on these matters, so I'll say this carefully. I also know that
having contact and communication with your family can be a very, very
important part of this.
And so I'm not aware of any changes in policy. You guys can let us
Q: (Off mike.)
CLARKE: But let me just say they take great care and great concern
with the physical and emotional well-being of these people, and they
would not be put in any kind of situation that wasn't appropriate.
Q: General, you say that there are combat operations ongoing. Can you
characterize the type of combat? Are the major battles, are they
finished now at this point? Are we just in this sporadic firefight,
mopping-up operations in these cities?
MCCHRYSTAL: I would anticipate that the major combat engagements are
over because the major Iraqi units on the ground cease to show
coherence. Tikrit was the last area where we anticipated seeing major
combat formations, if in fact they were there. There were some sharp
fights there, but not a coherent defense. So I think we will move into
a phase where it is smaller, albeit sharp fights.
Q: And al Qaim out in the west, we heard some firefights there. Are
they over? Is that done?
MCCHRYSTAL: I won't say that al Qaim is completely done. I will say
that from our standpoint, the regime no longer has control of it. We
have not yet proclaimed it secure under coalition control. But
clearly, Saddam Hussein's regime does not control it.
Q: I swear -- I promise, this is the last one. Anything on the 101st
Airborne Division find of some vehicles underneath -- underground?
MCCHRYSTAL: I saw the news reports of that, and clearly, we're going
to treat that very seriously, as you could see from the activity of
the soldiers there. But I know no official estimation at this point.
Q: Torie, Secretary Rumsfeld has said a number of times that these
people who are going into Syria are Iraqi officials. Could you offer a
little more definition of -- for example, are these people who are on
the top 55 list? And if not --
CLARKE: I've got nothing to add. You've had the president, the
secretary, the secretary of Defense --
Q: I'm just asking -- (inaudible) --
CLARKE: I know. But they've --
Q: Are they on the list or not?
CLARKE: We've said as much as we're going to say right now.
Q: But if they're not on the list, why does it matter if they've --
CLARKE: Mr. McWethy?
Q: Not going to answer that one? Okay.
You have now had Republican Guards by the thousands or tens of
thousands, depending on how you count them, sort of either being
killed or vanishing. You have had this long list of high-ranking
officials that have vanished. Are either of these two categories of
great concern, especially the fighters that are no longer there, but
obviously you can't have tens of thousands of fighters leaving the
country. Have they all had a conversion?
CLARKE: Well, the leadership obviously is a concern, and that is part
of our military objectives, is finding the leadership, finding the
people who were running and enforcing this regime for so long. And
we've had some success; we've got a ways to go. Speculation about what
happened to the others, I'll leave it to the general. But we have not
seen thousands of people pouring out of the country.
MCCHRYSTAL: And we haven't in the case of the Republican Guards. As
you know, there's sort of a hierarchy of loyalty in the Iraqi defense
forces, or so we have assessed. The Republican Guards, many of them
may, in fact, go home and rejoin society without any issues. We are
probably more worried about some of the Saddam Fedayeen, potentially
members of the Special Republican Guards. But even within those
organizations, many may just decide to rejoin what, in fact, will be a
new Iraq. So, we are concerned about it and stay focused on it, but
don't have an assessment right now that there is a looming threat.
Q: General, you said there's been some repositioning of naval assets,
and that was said over the weekend -- (word inaudible) -- respond to
new positions. Can you tell us if there's been any repositioning or if
there's any repositioning in the immediate future for air assets, Air
Force assets, and are any of our ground forces going to leave Iraq?
MCCHRYSTAL: Well, I'll address the air assets. In fact, General Franks
is free to make decisions to redeploy those assets that he no longer
feels he needs for this part of the operations, and he is doing that
in selected cases now.
Q: Do you want to give us any clarity on which squads are being
redeployed? B-2s, or --
MCCHRYSTAL: I can't give you specifics on what types or numbers of
assets, but clearly, those assets which were focused on a high
intensity air campaign would be the most likely, initially.
Q: Go ahead.
Q: And the second part of the question is on the ground.
MCCHRYSTAL: We're still early in the ground forces. As you know, we
had devised a very flexible force flow that was based to be able to be
metered as we go, to either increase or decrease as time passed. There
had been no ground units that had been redeployed at this point. We
still have the ongoing flow, as programmed, of other ground units, but
General Franks and the secretary of Defense continue to review that to
determine whether or not that should be adjusted.
Q: General McChrystal, I want you to go to number two again. I'm going
to focus on the elimination of WMD. Can you give us a feel for how now
the level of effort will increase to go after -- to look after suspect
sites? This 75th Intelligence Exploitation Task Force apparently is
going to get more involved. And there was a published report today
saying roughly 36 suspect sites are being reviewed. Is that an
And for Torie, the scientific adviser for Hussein the other day
surrendered and said that Iraq had no WMD program at all. From your
perspective, how should the public assess his answer, his claim, given
that he's got no reason to lie at this point?
CLARKE: Old habits die hard.
Q: Well, seriously --
CLARKE: Seriously. You're talking about a senior player in a regime
that took lying and deception and denial to new heights. So we'll see
what happens going forward, but this is a regime that we know and the
international community knows, with great certainty, had extraordinary
designed to hide and deceive everyone about their weapons of mass
Q: Well, what stake would he have? If he said we have -- they have
tons, he'd be at the White House today, probably in a Rose Garden
CLARKE: I wouldn't even begin to try to get inside his head.
Q: Okay. General, on the whole issue of site surveys?
MCCHRYSTAL: In terms of the level of effort, we have gone in fact, at
this point, to a very small percentage of a very extensive list of
known locations. And I would expect that that would grow in fact --
the number of suspect locations -- as we talk to more people.
And I would say that as combat operations begin to slow down, that we
will have more forces available, and we'll have a more secure
environment in which we can get to these locations more easily.
It will still be a very long process, because each has to be handled
very carefully, both from the ability to protect the forces to go to
investigate, but also for rules of evidence, for other practical
reasons, and because of the limited number of experts that you can
bring. So I would suspect it will go for an extended period of time.
Q: Is 36 an accurate figure? That was in the New York Times today.
MCCHRYSTAL: I won't talk specific numbers of sites we've been to. But
we've been to a very small percentage of those that are already --
Q: (Off mike) -- sites, though. Their list was winnowed down to 36.
I'm just trying to get a sense if that's a valid universe.
MCCHRYSTAL: It in fact is not a valid number that I'm familiar with.
There are other numbers, but we've only been to a small percentage of
CLARKE: It's also not, I don't think, a complete picture to just look
at sites and say that's what it's all about when it comes to WMD. It's
sites. It's paperwork. It's people. It's documents. It is a very
complex system, and so it'll require a long and complex process to get
to the bottom of it.
Q: General and Torie, last week General Myers had talked about -- even
while combat was going on at al Qaim, that the forces had visited
certain sites of interest -- WMD sites, as I understand it -- and
results were pending. Can you give us any more detail on what was
found at those sites?
And then, secondly, do you have any reason to believe that any of the
WMD components have left Iraq?
MCCHRYSTAL: In terms of what we have looked at, there are no positive
results a this point. There are a number of samples that are still
being tested. So we don't have positive or negative either way. We
have gone to some of the major sites, as I said, and in fact shipped
samples back to the United States for detailed analysis.
CLARKE: And I'd say well before this war started, one of our chief
concerns was that weapons of mass destruction, the means of producing
them, things associated with their program, could be moving in and out
of the country to other places, going to other countries and
transiting. So it was a concern and it remains a concern.
Q: And you don't know whether it has?
CLARKE: Nothing to share with you.
MCCHRYSTAL: I'd like to add on that if I could. The whole idea of
gathering information on their weapons of mass destruction program, we
believe, gets measurably easier once we have a safe and secure
environment, when we can start to talk to people in Iraq. As more
people feel safe and secure that the regime is gone, and we have the
ability to connect the threads, it becomes police work.
Q: Last week the U.S. military flew Ahmad Chalabi and 700 armed INC
members into Iraq. There are U.S. Special Forces deployed with those
INC and Chalabi, and today he's on his way to Baghdad. Presumably, he
wouldn't be able to do that without the knowledge and support of the
U.S. So how can the U.S. military or the Pentagon deny the perception
that they are giving Chalabi and his INC members favorable treatment?
And if that's not the case, then what, exactly, is this relationship
between the INC and the Pentagon and U.S. military?
CLARKE: Well, it's really the relationship with the Iraqi people
overall. We've been working with the Kurds in the north, we've been
working with the Shi'a, we've been working with and have brought in
free Iraqi forces that were trained in Hungary, we're working with
local leaders, with tribal leaders, with clerics, with a wide range of
people both within and without Iraq. And at the end of the day, what
matters and what's really going to happen is the Iraqi people are
going to decide the course of action going forward. So I think if you
look at the complete picture, the perception's very different. And
it's the reality, as well.
Q: I think, given all the stern warnings and concerns from here about
the treatment of prisoners of war, I was surprised to see that they
are in such good shape. And I'm wondering if you could address what
you know of their treatment. I mean, besides the televised pictures of
them and the fact that ICRC didn't visit them, do you have any
evidence that they weren't treated in accordance with international
law? And by the same token, could you tell us when we're going to see
Iraqi prisoners of war freed?
CLARKE: I don't have information on our POWs, the ones that were
returned. I don't. I'm sure that will come forward at the appropriate
(Turning to General McChrystal) And on the second? Don't have --
MCCHRYSTAL: There is a process to review all of the prisoners of war
under our control and to determine which of those are appropriate for
very speedy release. And the secretary has given that guidance and
CENTCOM's working it.
Q: So the Article 5, have any of those proceedings happened yet?
MCCHRYSTAL: To my knowledge, they have not. But I am not sure.
Q: A question on the return of the police to the streets of Baghdad.
Last week, General Brooks said that they had to be cautious about the
use of the former police because many of them were associates of the
regime. And yet there was a report out that significant numbers of
them have been reporting back to duty and we've been utilizing them.
What's the status of using the former Iraqi police?
MCCHRYSTAL: There's an effort ongoing to augment the situation, the
security situation in Baghdad and other areas by using Iraqis to help
with the policing function. To my understanding, in each case we are
still largely in the organizational phase to identify the appropriate
people, to do the kinds of checks that ensure that it's a credible and
legitimate force. But this will be a long process. This is something
we are just starting, and to produce a representative security element
within Iraq will be something that takes a long time, and must be done
by the Iraqis, in the end.
Q: Are some of those people -- are they considered acceptable to the
Iraqi citizens because of their past association with the regime?
MCCHRYSTAL: I'm not sure of any specifics. I would just say that we
are going through a process to, as much as possible, balance the
requirement to get people on the street quickly, with the requirement
to have them be legitimate.
CLARKE: Barbara, and then Tom is the last one.
Q: Torie, General Brooks talked this morning at Central Command about
the legal issue of when the cessation of hostilities happens, when the
combat phase is declared over, under the Geneva Convention, which the
U.S., of course, follows, the U.S. military may have a legal
obligation to become formally the occupation force of Iraq and take on
the military legal obligations of being the occupation force under the
Geneva Convention because war will have stopped. What kinds of
obligations does that put upon the U.S. military, and how do you deal
with this phase with the understanding that you've always said you're
not the occupation force? How do you take on these legal obligations
under the Geneva Convention?
CLARKE: I think he also said he's not a lawyer. And neither am I. But
there will be plenty of people who will make sure everything we do is
appropriate, how we do it and when we do it. As the general said,
right now we are focused on primarily the military operations and
using those military operations to create an environment in which the
Iraqis can get their country back. We could consider and talk to some
of the general counsel people about a briefing of some sort if it
would be useful. I just don't know enough about it.
Okay? And we'll do Tom last.
Q: Now that you foresee no more major combat operations, do you see a
different mix of U.S. forces heading into the region; more Civil
Affairs units, Military Police? And also, some analysts are suggesting
you bring in international police of the kind we saw in Bosnia and
MCCHRYSTAL: I wouldn't speak to the international police in specifics,
but clearly, the mix of U.S. forces will continue to be adjusted.
There will be a requirement for combat power for some period of time
to maintain or to establish that secure and safe environment. But
clearly, the requirements for Civil Affairs, engineer organizations,
Military Police, will be significant. And in fact, that's designed
into the force flow.
Q: General, will we might be seeing that anytime --
MCCHRYSTAL: Well, in fact, I think you're seeing it right now. As the
flow goes, those elements are embedded. We have -- the flow's designed
into packages that were, in fact, deployment orders. And although
there's a major unit with each deployment order, for example, the 3rd
Armored Cavalry Regiment or the 1st Armored Division, that's only part
of that package. In fact, that may be 60 or 70 percent of the package,
and a number of other forces, echelon above division and echelon above
corps units, built into that. And so we tend to say, well, the 1st
Armored Division is going, but in fact, it's a much more capable,
wider element than that, that include many of the things that were
anticipated and that you mentioned.
Q: The 1st Cav., they've been put on hold?
MCCHRYSTAL: There is a review going on right now of what forces will
be required. We have --
Q: Does that mean they've been put on hold?
MCCHRYSTAL: There's been no dep. ord. modification signed at this
point, so I wouldn't comment on any specifics.
CLARKE: And I would just add, Tom, there are lots of conversations and
discussions underway right now with other countries about providing
some of those services, international organizations. And there's a lot
of enthusiasm from different countries --
Q: This is for police, or --
CLARKE: In terms of providing some of the functions that will be
necessary going forward. Obviously, humanitarian on the civil front
and perhaps performing some of those functions, as well.
Q: Police functions?
Q: A brief follow-up --
Q: General, is much of the 4th ID now in Iraq?
CLARKE: We're done.
(Question unanswered as briefing ends.)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)